CSX loses federal injunction bid in rail antitrust case

A CSX coal train moves past an idling CSX engine at the switchyard in Brunswick, Maryland
A CSX coal train (R) moves past an idling CSX engine at the switchyard in Brunswick, Maryland October 16, 2012. REUTERS/Gary Cameron
  • Ruling spurns CSX bid over access to key port
  • U.S. judge in Virginia earlier rejected CSX's damages claim

(Reuters) - CSX Transportation Inc has lost another key ruling in its antitrust lawsuit seeking greater access to a large Virginia port, after a U.S. judge said he had no power to issue an injunction against rival freight rail operators that control tracks.

Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Davis' ruling in Norfolk, Virginia, on Friday said federal courts were barred from issuing injunctions in private lawsuits against rail "common carriers" — including defendants Norfolk Southern Railway Co and Norfolk & Portsmouth Belt Line Railroad Co — that are subject to regulation by the federal Surface Transportation Board.

"There is no question that CSX is a private party that does not represent the United States," Davis wrote in his order.

Davis on Jan. 3 in a separate ruling rejected the Jacksonville, Florida-based CSX's bid for hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.

A CSX spokesperson said on Monday the company would appeal and that it would continue its "efforts to gain competitive access" to Norfolk International Terminals.

Lawyers for CSX at McGuireWoods did not immediately respond on Monday to a message seeking comment.

Attorneys for Norfolk Southern and Norfolk & Portsmouth did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

Norfolk Southern and CSX, two of the largest freight rail carriers in the U.S., compete to transport containers arriving at U.S. ports.

In 2018, CSX sued Northern Southern and Norfolk & Portsmouth Belt Line in federal court alleging they concluded to deny access to the Norfolk International Terminals.

CSX pursued an injunction in a quest for greater access to on-dock rail slots at Norfolk International Terminals, the Virginia Port Authority's largest shipping dock. CSX uses the terminal through Norfolk & Portsmouth's rights with Norfolk Southern. Norfolk & Portsmouth is co-owned by CSX and Norfolk Southern, the majority owner.

CSX in a court filing called Norfolk Southern and Norfolk & Portsmouth's fight against an injunction a "last-minute attempt to avoid this court's scrutiny of defendants' conduct at trial."

CSX called its rivals' arguments "untimely and unfounded antitrust immunity claims."

Davis said the relevant U.S. law "does not confer antitrust 'immunity' from injunctions because the antitrust laws continue to apply to rail carriers, with the United States serving as the ultimate backstop."

The case is CSX Transportation Inc v. Norfolk Southern Railway, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, No. 2:18-cv-530.

For CSX: Robert McFarland and Benjamin Hatch of McGuireWoods

For Norfolk Southern: Alan Wingfield and Michael Lacy of Troutman Pepper Hamilton Sanders; Tara Reinhart of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom

For Norfolk & Portsmouth: James Chapman and Ryan Snow of Crenshaw, Ware & Martin

Read more:

U.S. judge scraps CSX jury trial in rail antitrust case

Rival of container shipper Matson can proceed with antitrust lawsuit

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